Why This Matters


    A degree in photography can prepare you for work in various types of photography, including portrait, commercial, fashion, fine art, and documentary photography. Other opportunities include photo editor, instructor, or art director.


    This occupation is expected to grow 9% over the next decade, which is faster than the average for all occupations.


    Professional photographers earn $49,942 per year on average, according to Payscale.

Our Research

This list features some of the best online photography degree programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions. The programs on our list have accreditation through the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for online students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online photography degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The Top 23 Online Photography Degree Programs

Best Photography Degree Programs 2023
Intelligent Pick
Savannah College of Art and Design
Easiest Admissions
Southern New Hampshire University
Best for Digital Photography
Arizona State University
Most Prestigious
California Institute of the Arts
Best Associate Degree
Santa Barbara City College
Best Experiential Learning
Columbus State Community College
Best Non-Degree Program
The Photography Institute
Best for Traditional Photography
San Joaquin Delta College
Best Study Abroad Opportunity
Dakota College at Bottineau
Spelman College

State University of New York at New Paltz

Rhode Island School of Design

SUNY at Purchase College

What You Should Know About This Degree

Photographers must possess a range of skills, including creativity, artistic ability, attention to detail, and computer, business, and interpersonal skills. While degree programs can teach students the technical skills and artistic principles behind photography, this field is best suited for those with an innate sense of creativity and visual expression.

Because photography equipment is readily accessible, and most photography skills can be learned through independent study and trial-and-error, there is debate about whether a degree is necessary to have a career in photography. Benefits of earning a photography degree include learning from trained professionals, access to equipment and facilities, and networking opportunities. However, students should carefully consider their career goals and if taking two or four years to earn a degree is the right path for them.

Many photographers work as freelancers or manage their own photography studios. Therefore, having some coursework in business, management, and entrepreneurship can be beneficial. Some programs may include these courses in the curriculum, or you may be able to gain this knowledge through elective classes. Photographers also have an advantage when they keep up with trends in the photography industry, like the current popularity of drone photography for weddings, special events, advertising, and more.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching Photography programs:

  • Is there a portfolio required for admission? Typically in BFA and MFA programs, students must demonstrate their artistic abilities as part of the admissions process. This is usually done by submitting a portfolio of work that includes photography as well as other types of artwork. Talk to the admissions staff or program representatives to find out what is required for the portfolio so that you can make the necessary preparations to submit it with your application.
  • What equipment and facilities do students have access to in the program? Photography requires special equipment, including cameras, lighting, and software, as well as facilities like darkrooms, studios, and labs. Visit the school or talk to a representative about what equipment students are expected to purchase, what the program provides, and what type of photography facilities students can access.

During the research stage, learn about programs’ application requirements and deadlines. This will help keep you organized and on track when it comes to applying in a timely manner. You should also research funding resources, including federal financial aid, scholarships, assistantships, and tuition assistance benefits if you are currently employed.